The Patient

Dr. Harris sat in his office, trying to look calm. He was skimming the notes he had on Karen, trying to convince himself that she was just another patient to be treated. Five minutes later, Karen entered his office for her appointment. She had short, blond hair and greenish eyes; she was also a little overweight and wasn’t the most beautiful thing ever, but there was an ineffable quality that hovered about her presence, obviating any mere imperfection. “How are you,” Dr. Harris quietly asked.

Karen took a moment before answering, crossing her legs (she was wearing a skirt) and prepared a smile. “Fine.”

“Fine?” Harris nodded, “That’s good. How’s the new job, you mentioned your manager…”

“Yeah. No. Work’s been fine.”

“That’s good.” Her eyes faced him, but Harris felt as though they weren’t looking at him; this was something that frustrated him, as though he didn’t exist and was merely a springboard for her to talk about her issues. But this didn’t stop Harris from looking at her eyes.

Suddenly, her head jerked to the left, toward the window and she said, “I don’t want to talk about it, but I guess that means we should…”

“You mean…”

“Yes. That. It’s been almost a year since he’s died. And I’ve been thinking about him.” She turned herself back to Harris. Harris noticed that she, unlike his other patients, always guided the sessions. He considered this a part of her arrogant personality, but this was just another thing that both excited and agitated him.

“In what ways have you been thinking about him?”

She sighed. She looked so pale. “I guess…I shouldn’t say I’ve been thinking about him. But things surrounding him. How…he wasn’t a bad person; he was more human than most people who just walk around dough-eyed; he could have been a great artist, but things prevented that.”

“His drug addiction.”

“Yes,” she said sharply, “His drug addiction. But that’s not what I mean. The things pushed him onto that route…” She trailed off; her eyes started to turn red. Suddenly, Harris felt so small behind his desk. Her voice returned. “I was just thinking about how little control he had. He could have been great, could have been larger than his past.”

“But, he made his own choices. No one was forcing him…” before he finished that thought Harris stopped himself. Karen didn’t respond to this; she seemed to be in her own world, a place that he couldn’t access.

“All men are tethered to circumstance,” she suddenly said, “Even great men had little control of what they became.” She waved her hand. “I don’t know, it’s a silly thought, but it’s something I keep having. Maybe I like having this thought.” Harris didn’t know what she meant by her last statement. He just nodded and let her continue.

An hour quickly passed and Karen was gone. Harris went to lunch and came back to talk with another patient. He tried to stop thinking about the enigmatic Karen, but he couldn’t quell the image that floated within his mind. There was that thing about her that he couldn’t analyze, that he couldn’t reach or even touch upon—it was beyond things and beyond him. He knew he shouldn’t be treating her considering his feelings toward her—he also couldn’t help her—yet she was there, every Wednesday at 11:30.

The patient Harris was with was another dull, middle-aged, middle class guy, just like him. The patient babbled on and on about his wife; Dr. Harris nodded and moved his pen.

Day in the City – Fiction

Late afternoon once again and the man moves across the empty street toward the park. Right away he sees a fat squirrel standing on the grass, its cheeks moving. He shoots it with his BB rifle and drops the body in his sack, looks around for a moment, then starts to head back home.

The man goes along his way, passing by abandoned cars. He peeks inside one. A while back, in one of the cars, he found an album with some lovely photos. Another time he saw a raccoon curled underneath a dashboard. He used to think about the people trying to evacuate, and him waiting for the imminent. But something in his genes disallowed his dying like the others. Now he peeks inside dead cars and buildings.

Later, as he walks through the basketball courts it catches him, a red soccer ball laying partially deflated in the middle of the empty court. He’s passed by it countless times, but now he’s struck. The half-of-something sitting there, touched only by the stolid air. The man goes over to it, squeezes and listens to its long wheeze. Then he drops it in the trash, even though it won’t go anywhere.

Sunday Photo Fiction
Sunday Photo Fiction

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction.

A Great Writer Speaks – Fiction

“Writers write,” Herman Reisz informed the students, “in order to become a better writer, a writer must write—every day.” Reisz was one of America’s most renowned authors; his novel, No More Light for Scott, published in 1992, was an instant classic and read by every undergraduate studying English. Noted critics like Thomas Stulls praised the writer: “Reisz is perhaps the most significant writer of the last few decades. Not only do his words bludgeon the reader with their profundity, they are also of great import. Reisz is a tremendous literary gift; the same cannot be said of many.” Herman Reisz also lectured frequently at all the top state and private universities where he bequeathed young wannabees his ultimate wisdom.

“Writers MUST live life. Observe people. And, of course, write from the thumping in your chest.” As Reisz was proffering his knowledge he scanned the numerous faces, hungry and hoping to absorb some form of greatness from an aging man with spectacles. He knew that most of them were talentless. Most, he figured, probably wouldn’t be able to construct a memorable line or image, at least, not on purpose. And even the ones with talent, he knew, would most likely be swept-up by the trap that is academia. He was thinking all of this as he was lecturing. He was able to do the two things at once for he had given the same advice, in the same way, over and over. He likened it to the involuntary ease of blinking or eating with your mouth closed. Reisz didn’t hate what he had become—it was reality.

“The best writers bare their skin,” he heard himself say. Now he was watching one of the girls in the third row: Long, brown hair, head rested in her hands, green eyes gazing at him. “…they open themselves up. They have to. That is the obligation of those who wield the pen…” Reisz started wondering about how much that girl’s parents must of forked-over so she can have middling discussions about Blake or David Foster Wallace. And all to what end? So that hack writers can get paid to lecture for only the very few bother to even purchase their buy their pulp? We may never know…

“In addition to being ever-present with reality, the best writers also offer messages of grave significance…” Reisz didn’t know what that meant, and was certain that no one else did either, but they were lapping it up, he could tell. Maybe that girl really is interested in literature and advancing the art-form, he wondered. Perhaps, she is less interested in fame or becoming a “name writer,” like Toni Morrison, Dave Eggers, or Herman Reisz. But so what of it? Most people will most likely never read her work, either because there are too many other writers flooding the market, or because most readers don’t care about originality, but would much rather read something that agrees with their views or utter schlock.

This was when Reisz stepped away from the lectern and turned to the whiteboard. He picked-up one of the pens and scribbled something big enough so that everyone can see (and he underlined it, twice): It was the answer to everything, so if anyone couldn’t see (or read,) Reisz read aloud, “Cut the crap!” He ended every lecture the same way, and knew it was all nonsense. He also knew that, years from now, the books that he published that were so highly-regarded would never be read again for he knew that he wasn’t a very good writer. He had no talent, but he never did feel an ounce of guilt for pushing mediocrity. Reisz coasted through life, writing a few more nondescript books, eventually retiring somewhere within the mountains, waiting for his pleasant life to take its leave.

Gerald Contemplates God – Fiction

(c) Jen from Blog it or Lose it!
(c) Jen from Blog it or Lose it!

“I ain’t the most religious guy, but you’ve got to admit, those Bible-thumpers know a thing or two about art and architecture,” Gerald said to me as he gazed at the constellation of gold tiles that defined the chapel’s ceiling. “Maybe that’s why people turn to religion if they weren’t brought-up on it–they’re too attracted to beauty.”

Gerald rubbed his chin, “Then again, it seems a bit too tacky, like they’re trying too hard.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You would think they would do better if they’re trying to make a tribute to God.”

“Nah, they’re not doing this for God. Besides, do you really think God gives a crap about some shiny shit in a building? Haven’t you ever thought it weird that God would care if we worshiped him or not? Does God have an ego, like us?”

“Let’s hope not, for this artist’s sake.”

A non-story inspired by Bastet’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge from We Drink. Check out the other entries!

Room Eight – Short Fiction

Jeff tried opening the door but the little piece of plastic couldn’t get the light to come on. He pulled the card out and inserted it back in. No light. He flipped the card over and tried inserting again. When that didn’t work he flipped the card over again and wiggled it inside the slit. He sighed.

As Jeff tried over and over to dismantle the door, he heard footsteps coming from the other side of the hallway. Jeff turned his head. A man wearing a leather jacket and trucker cap was walking in his direction. Jeff looked back down at the impenetrable door handle, feeling a slight embarrassment. The man in the leather jacket eventually passed him and entered one of the other doors. Jeff tried wiggling his plastic key card a little bit more.

Somehow, the door opened. Jeff looked into his room with a mixture of surprise and relief, but that all faded away when he entered and dropped his suitcase on his bed. The room wasn’t dirty. There weren’t thick, mysterious, brown stains slowly conquering the corners nor a dense, pungent air. But there was a print hanging above the bed depicting a sailboat rocking on a sea that was just a shade darker than the blue sky. The boat wasn’t a speck on the ocean but rather took up most of the painting. Like the rest of the room it elicited nothing within Jeff.

Jeff debated whether to put the contents of his suitcase into the drawers, in fear of nefarious little life forms tainting the remainder of his possessions. He sat on the bed and flipped through the channels. For a while, the TV remained on kids’ television station featuring a cartoon fish and his nautical pals. Jeff remembered having to sit through the cartoon fish and his fishy antics every night before their bedtime. Jeff flipped the channel.